Been reading Vaka Rangi…

Josh Marsfelder, like me, was inspired by Phil Sandifer’s TARDIS Eruditorum to do something vaguely similar with a show he loved. He started about six months after me and has been doing something much more Eruditorum-esque with Star Trek. I’m actually only on early season 2 of TOS, his third month of blogging, but I can already tell he’s way better at this than I am.

Anyway, if you like Star Trek and read this blog, you are virtually certain to get a lot out of Vaka Rangi. Go read!

I’ve had just about enough (Three’s A Crowd)

Trigger Warning: Discussion of abuse tactics, gaslighting, isolating of victims

And then Twilight gets to set a literal boundary.
At least, it’s closer to the color of her magic than Cadance’s.

It’s January 25, 2014. The top song is still Pitbull and Ke$ha with “Timber,” and the top movie is still Ride Along. In the news, protests against the Ukrainian government (which have been going on since November) erupt into riots, which will help fuel the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014 and subsequent Russian annexation of Crimea later in the year; a polar vortex strikes the U.S. East Coast, creating dangerously cold conditions across a significant swath of the country, and scientists at the European Space Agency detect water vapor on the dwarf planet (formerly classified as an asteroid) Ceres.

On television, we have “Three’s a Crowd” by Megan McCarthy and Ed Valentine, which much like “Castle Mane-ia” before it is what might be called a stealth arc episode. On initial viewing in sequence, it has little to do with the season’s arc, but in hindsight it sets up two important elements in the story: Fluttershy’s task to monitor the migration of the Breezies, which will lead directly to acquiring her key, and Twilight Sparkle’s evident dislike of Discord but apparent unwillingness to outright reject him as a friend, which sets up her segment of the quest for the keys in the season finale.

The bulk of the episode is spent on that latter point, and so once again the show misses an opportunity to assert that friendship is not transitive–that Discord’s friendship with Fluttershy does not give him any claim on Fluttershy’s friends. Instead, the episode appears for much of its length to be treading into Friendship Is Mandatory territory, with Twilight Sparkle appearing to accept Discord’s claim that they are friends even though she has never been shown to say that Discord is her friend or to be friendly toward him.

I have discussed before why the notion that everyone can and should be friends with everyone else is toxic, and will not rehash that argument here; instead, I will note it is particularly disturbing when Discord is involved, because as in “Keep Calm and Flutter On” he is openly abusive toward his “friend.” His abusive behavior begins almost from the start of the episode, when he first brazenly lies by claiming that Applejack and Rarity agreed to nurse him, then manipulates them into reluctantly agreeing after all. This is a variant of the abusive technique known as “gaslighting,” in which  the abuser persuades the victim of something they know isn’t true, undermining the victim’s confidence in their own judgment and increasing their dependence on the abuser.

This action also puts them in a position to be infected by the (nonexistent, but that’s unlikely to stop a being of Discord’s power) blue flu, which together with the departures of Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy earlier in the episode render Twilight almost completely isolated, allowing Discord to pursue what he implies through denial at the end of the episode is his main project, isolating Twilight from her friends, particularly Cadance. There is no evidence of any particular scheme past that, so his likely motivation is simply jealousy and possessiveness–again, common traits of abusers.

He then spends the bulk of the episode forcing Twilight and Cadance to serve him with the goal of preventing them from enjoying their time together. He makes a series of absurd demands with the justification that they are small requests necessitated by his illness–again, trying to undermine his target’s sense of reality in order to substitute his own framing–culminating in the canard about the giant worm-guarded flower.

In the end, Discord claims this was all a test of Twilight’s friendship, which is again a typical abuser thing to do. He reframes his malicious and cruel behavior as an achievement on Twilight’s part, a way in which she can redeem herself for being a poor friend (when, of course, she is not his friend at all). He even tries to claim that he expected Twilight to enjoy being tested because she likes tests. This is both an attempt to excuse himself from blame for the events of the episode, and an attempt to establish dominance by positioning himself as someone who has the right to test Twilight the way, say, her mentor Celestia does.

So Discord is again thoroughly vile, and again the series refuses to acknowledge that Twilight has the option to choose not to be his friend in response. But nonetheless it is able to somewhat redeem itself by doing exactly what “Keep Calm and Flutter On” didn’t: hold Discord accountable for his actions. Twilight is rightly furious when she learns Discord was faking being sick, and tells him so. More importantly, his efforts not only fail, but backfire: Cadance has a great time fighting the worm with Twilight, and then Discord becomes actually sick as a consequence. As Rarity says at the episode’s end, he got what he deserved. Fluttershy is of course much kinder to him, but it is not enitrely clear that Fluttershy has a concept of “deserves.”

Although the episode does not quite go far enough, it does at least ultimately acknowledge Twilight’s right to set boundaries by having her tell off Discord and leave him to the care of someone who might actually want to help him. It further highlights this as a positive action by punishing Discord with real illness, acknowledging that he deserves it, and rewarding Twilight by having her day with Cadance go well after all.

This episode also serves to clarify Discord’s behavior in “Princess Twilight Sparkle,” placing both episodes in the context of “Keep Calm and Flutter On.” Specifically, in both episodes Discord is still just as malicious as he has been since his introduction, but proceeds more subtly than in “The Return of Harmony.” In both episodes he provides a cover story that makes his cruelty deniable, positioning himself as a trickster mentor rather than the trickster villain he actually is. In “Princess Twilight Sparkle” his cover story is that he is nudging Twilight toward understanding that she needs to work to maintain the same relationship with her friends as she had before her ascension; here it’s that he is insecure and needs to prove Twilight cares about him. In both cases, however, his goal is simply to sow chaos in Twilight’s life, most likely as revenge for the events of “The Return of Harmony.”

It’s becoming very clear that Discord needs a friendship lesson of his own, and of course Twilight providing him one–modeling for him how to be a good friend, making him (at least partially and temporarily) recognize how utterly self-centered and terrible of a friend he is–will be the crux of the season finale. It’s unfortunate that, in setting this up, the show created the impression that Twilight is in any way obligated to teach him to become a better friend; it is dangerously close to the “I can fix him!” attitude that can so easily increase one’s vulnerability to toxic and abusive people.

Next week: Some singer the target audience has never heard of. Heck, most of the bronies were born after his heyday. No, this one’s clearly for the parents.

Kill la Kill Liveblog Chat Thingy!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:

Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting!

Option 2: Go to Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching the episode and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST today.

Chatlog below the cut!

01[14:00] Satsuki looks weird wearing Junketsu like a normal outfit.
01[14:01] I like her military-ish uniform better.
[14:01] “Ragyo Stadium.” So humble.
01[14:02] The way the characters’ outfits flip around in the OP reminds me of watching someone play a fighting game.
01[14:02] Like, swapping alts on the Character Select screen.
[14:03] Ad.
01[14:03] k
01[14:04] ?
[14:05] And I’m back.
[14:05] Frakking Hulu.
[14:05] Ah, I got distracted and didn’t see that we were waiting for an ad
[14:06] I’m just after Mako’s speech.
[14:06] Where Senketsu reminds everyone that his opinion kind of matters.
01[14:06] Blah blah Ryuko blah Mako blah
01[14:06] Get back to the student council, they’re way more interesting and entertaining.
01[14:08] Wait, so now his crotch glows even when she has pants on?
01[14:08] *he has pants
[14:08] Oh, there are no pants.
[14:08] It’s really more of a belt than pants
01[14:08] Oh, I see now. Camera angle made it look like cargo pants.
[14:09] And now my favorite character in the show. And Satsuki.
01[14:09] lol
01[14:09] Satoi is a pretty good butler in the Alfred vein, yeah.
[14:10] Ad.
[14:10] This reminds me of the comment about Matoi saying Satsuki is alone
01[14:10] Yeah, some of her minions really are very nearly friends/family.
[14:10] Rather objectively wrong at this point.
[14:10] She was, in fact, wrong about that, but it’s understandable that she would believe it.
01[14:11] Like Satoi and whatsername, band geek girl.
[14:11] Nonon
[14:11] I’m back.
[14:11] Remember that whenever Matoi has seen Satsuki treat one of the elite four as anything other than disposable tools, Ryuko has questioned it
[14:11] “are you going soft” or similar
01[14:11] Point.
[14:12] A friendship mediated by a strongly heirarchical power relationship isn’t something Matoi has experienced or understands.
01[14:13] Well, I mean, such a thing *is* inherently unstable and unsustainable.
[14:13] And art shift.
01[14:14] *eyeroll at the Obnoxious Family*
[14:14] At least they care.
01[14:15] Ah, so there’s our apocalypse.
[14:16] Ad.
[14:16] Last one, and shortest.
[14:17] And I’m back.
[14:18] The Revocs building always reminds me of Madoka’s witch form.
01[14:18] THAT’S what it is!
01[14:18] Thanks, that’s been bugging me.
[14:18] NP 🙂
01[14:22] DEATH TO ALL CUPS!
[14:22] Who’s going to sweep it up, I ask you?
[14:22] It’s like an Olympic opening ceremony.
[14:23] There are a number of traditions involving smashing ones cup after a toast
01[14:23] The fact that Mataro’s not in a uniform is going to be very significant, of course.
[14:23] And then Rahyo was Kefka.
01[14:23] Only question is whether that screws up Ragyo’s plans or Satsuki’s or both.
01[14:23] Are you suggesting Ragyo has ever not been Kefka?
[14:24] Point.
01[14:25] “Have fun storming the castle!”
[14:26] Miracle Mako, ladies and gentlemen.
01[14:27] WHAT A TWEEST
01[14:27] That’s been obvious for like a dozen episodes…
[14:28] And the always-inapporpriate second ending credits.
01[14:28] Although I have to admit, I was expecting Satsuki to ask Ryuko to join her, rather than just backstab her mom and declare herself to be in rebellion.
01[14:29] I’m still counting this as satisfying my prediction that their team-up would happen this episode.
[14:29] Do you really think Ryuko would say yes?
01[14:30] I think, given her new knowledge of the Life Fiber thing and wanting to kill whatsername, the fashion designer, it’s quite possible she would.
[14:30] Anyway, I hear that smashing cups after drinking from them like Satsuki & the elite four did there is a thing traditionally done before going into a battle
01[14:31] I figured it was probably something like that.
01[14:31] But is declaring war on cups any sillier than declaring war on clothes?
[14:31] It depends on whether or not the cups are made out of aliens.
01[14:31] Point.
[14:32] To follow up on earlier, with Satsuki’s friendships being mediated by dominance
[14:33] It’s notable that her meetings with each of her elite four follow roughly this pattern: The future shittenou challenges her, she overwhelms the challenge, and then says “that was cool, you can hang out with me”
[14:33] At first, Jakuzure Nonon’s story looks like the exception, but if you think about it, Nonon was trying to patronize Satsuki
01[14:33] Well yeah, it’s the Defeat Means Friendship thing.
01[14:34] Very common way to form a gang in shonen.
01[14:34] What’s odd is that she maintains such a hierarchical structure and dominant position afterwards.
[14:35] The sandcastle was offered with these words: “because you’re my favorite” and the offer was couched in an ostentatious display of Nonon’s popularity among the other tiny children
[14:35] Says something about who Satsuki is, really. She needs to be at the forefront.
01[14:36] Sure, I can buy that as the same challenge/defeat structure.
01[14:38] So, any final thoughts before I post this up?
[14:38] You’ve mentioned before
[14:39] That people have told you that there is a point at which this show gets a lot better. I can’t speak for them, but they may have been referring to the end of this episode, and making a pun on the point of Satsuki’s sword.
01[14:40] Lol, no, I’m pretty sure the exact wording didn’t use the word “point.”
01[14:40] Still, though, if this is where that improvement happens, good, because I am definitely bored pretty much any time Satsuki’s offscreen.
[14:41] See you next week, then.
01[14:41] No, week after.
[14:41] Convention next weekend
[14:41] Ah, right. Thanks for the reminder.
01[14:41] Next week I’m at AUSA and can’t do it, yep.

Continue reading

Autobiographical Story About Time Travel and Fairies

I put up the first part of this story quite a long time ago. I have made minor edits to that, and written the rest of the story, so this post is the full text.

I put aside the soldering iron and sat back to survey my work. It wasn’t the neatest job I’d ever seen, but then, I’d never been much of a modder. Oh, just like everyone else I’d modded a PlayStation to play import games, but that was almost twenty years ago now, and I hadn’t exactly done the neatest job back then, either.

The point was, it was finished and would probably work. If, of course, the website I’d ordered the mod chip from wasn’t a hoax. I’d been burned before with seemingly legitimate websites that turned out to be much shadier than they looked, most recently picking up an HDMI to VGA adapter which turned out to be (a) illegal and (b) almost completely non-functional.

I was pretty certain the mod chip I’d just installed in my new camera wasn’t illegal, because the tech was too new to be banned yet. I worried anyway, though I could no longer tell how much of that was due to legitimate concern and how much due to the inevitable jitters engendered by three days of high caffeine and low sleep.

Regardless, I put the back of the camera back on and screwed it into place. It was time. I turned the camera on. For a moment my heart froze in my throat, where it had decided to take up new residence, as the camera’s screen stayed black a little longer than I expected, but then it booted up normally. I selected the little icon of the clock in a crosshairs and carefully picked my date and location. Then I pointed the camera and took a deep breath.

“Are you really sure you want to do that?” asked a high-pitched voice like the tinkling of tiny bells.

I looked up and around. A soft pink ball of light was hovering outside my window, where the sound had come from. As I stared, it tapped against the window pane with a gentle tink.

I blinked a few times. It was still there. Tink!

I walked slowly over to the window and bent down to examine the pink thing more closely. As near as I could tell, it was just a fuzzy pink ball of light. Tink! Tink!

“Will you let me in?” the ball demanded. “It’s cold out here, and I think it’s starting to snow!”

For lack of any better ideas, I opened the window and the thing darted inside. It darted about the room a few times, then zipped up into the air in the middle of the room. I got the sense it was trying to orient itself.

Then: “Aha!” went the bells, and it floated over to my desk, where it settled down next to the camera. The light began to fade, to reveal a slender woman about five inches tall, with mauve skin, a triangular face, and a large (for her size) shock of pink hair. A pair of antennae protruded from high on her forehead, and four iridescent dragonfly-like wings from her back. She could not be anything but a fairy.

“Great, I’m hallucinating from lack of sleep,” I said.

“Quite possibly,” she answered, “but that’s not why I’m here. The Hallucination Fairy is a completely different division. I’m the Continuity Fairy.”

“…the what?” I might as well play along. It’s not like you can make hallucinations go away by ignoring them.

“The Continuity Fairy. Well, a Continuity Fairy, anyway.” She pulled a tiny little index card out of–well, out of nowhere I could see, actually–and read from it. “We have detected a probability nexus resulting in retrotemporal distortion originating from this location in approximately twenty minutes, most likely resulting from abuse of a ThioTime ™ brand future-sensitive camera. As the Continuity Fairy, it is my responsibility to ensure that such distortions do not occur.” She smiled brightly and put the card away wherever it had come from. “So: don’t do it, okay?”

“Um,” I answered.

“Something the matter?” she asked.

“If you’re the Continuity Fairy, how come you needed to read that off a card? Haven’t you been doing this for millennia or something?”

She pouted. “If you must know, I’m on interoffice loan. I’m normally a Parking Fairy.”

“A what?”

“You know, I cause open spaces in crowded lots, that sort of thing.”

I pondered this a moment. “You must not be very good at your job.”

She put her fists on her hips and leaned forward. “It’s not my fault!” she tried to yell, though it came out as more of a squeak. “We’ve always been understaffed, and now with you, you… you mortals running around inventing Time Cameras and Time Tunnels and Time Machines,  half of us have had to move over to assisting the Continuity Fairy! Poor thing is so overworked her antennae are drooping!”

I held up my hands to ward her off. “Sorry, sorry!” I sat back in my chair and studied her a moment.

“Well?” she asked.

“Well what?”

“Well, will you promise not to go back in time and muck up all our paperwork?”

I sighed. “Sorry,” I said. “I have to.”

“But why?” she pouted.

I sighed and looked at my workbench, meaning of course my living room, i.e. only, table, and at the camera sitting on it. “Things to fix.”

She groaned and buried her face in her hands. “Of course,” she said. “Look, try to understand this from our perspective, okay? These Time Cameras already have us overworked, what with you lot suddenly starting to photograph the past, forcing us to fix glitches you never would have noticed before. No, that’s not enough, you have to start figuring out how to break the safeties and photograph the future, too! Yeah, to you it’s just lottery numbers and TV spoilers, but to us it’s total continuity violation, glitches everywhere, you have no idea how hard it is to fix!” Her wings vibrated angrily. “But the worst, the absolute worst, are you people turning them into time machines and gallivanting into the past to–wait, how did you even know how to do this? I thought we got that site shut down!”

I shrugged. “Wayback Machine. Didn’t keep the diagrams, but it took maybe five minutes to find them on Pirate Bay.”

“Dammit,” said the fairy. “Look, what are you even trying to fix? It can’t be that bad.”

“My father died when I was thirteen,” I said, flatly factual. Perhaps I should have been dramatic, angry or sad or bitter, but it’s hard to get that worked up about something that’s been true for two thirds of your life.

“Oh,” she said. “Some kind of accident, or violence, and you think you can–“

“Cancer,” I said.

“Cancer,” she said back. “You’re going to go back in time and cure cancer? Are you even a doctor?”

I shrugged. “No. But it was lung cancer. He was a smoker. I figure if I go back far enough, convince him to quit–“

The fairy sighed and folded her wings. Her antennae drooped a bit. “You never tried as a kid?”

“Well, yeah, but–“

“So you think some random stranger he doesn’t recognize will do better? You think there’s any chance he’ll believe you if you claim to be his son?” She spoke softly, but there was an edge to the words. Her folded wings weren’t vibrating, but the air around her seemed to be.

“I have to try!” I snapped.

The fairy made a sweeping gesture with her arm, as if to gather in my apartment, its tiny spaces, the mess, the shelves packed to overflowing with books, the tiny inflatable mattress on the floor. “Why? Because you blame his death for this?” Her voice rose. Despite its high pitch, there was no longer anything cute or small about it. “Because you think if you go back and make him not dead, you won’t be alone? Won’t be stuck? Won’t live in a dump? You think you’re the first person who thinks they know where there lives went wrong?”

“No!” I shouted back. My anger was the opposite of hers. As always, when I got angry, my voice got squeaky and my eyes stung. Anger made me feel as it always did, small, and vulnerable, and tired, and that just made me angrier. “Because he was my dad, and I loved him, and he was terrible! Because he was the gentlest, kindest, most loving man in the world on his meds but he never loved us enough to stay on them! Because I was terrified of him when he was off, and just as scared when he was on because he might go off! Because we were living in poverty and filth when he died and his insurance money was the only reason we got out!”

The fairy looked up at me curiously, her head tilted to the side, one antenna raised. “I don’t understand,” she said, soft again.

I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, trying to steady myself. “Dad did more for me by dying than he ever did alive. I could never have gone to college, I’d never have my career, if he had lived.” I couldn’t hold it, the squeak and volume rose again, a physical pressure in my throat and behind my eyes. “What kind of son is better off without his dad? All this crap,” I waved my own hand around the room, “is the best of all possible worlds, and that’s wrong.” I forcibly plopped back down in my chair at the workbench and reached for the camera.

“Wait!” she cried, flying over to me and hovering in my face, wings beating invisibly fast, like a hummingbird. “Listen! Don’t you think this is what he wanted? For you to have a better life if something happened to him? Does having a good father make you a bad son?”

I shook my head. “You don’t get it,” I said. “He wasn’t a good father. He was a well-meaning father who sucked at it for reasons outside his control, and knowing that is what makes me a bad son. I have to put things right.”

“Please,” she said. “Think about this. If he were here, would he want this? If you’re doing this for him, think about him! And then, if you can honestly say to me that this is the right thing to do by him, the right way to honor him, then…” She sighed and settled down on the table. “Then I won’t stop you. You can go ahead and change history and my sisters and I will just have to deal with the cleanup.” She stepped aside and gestured to the camera. “So, can you? Can you truthfully say this is what he’d want?”

I picked up the camera and thought about my dad.

At least, that’s what I’d like to say. But that’d be a lie.

The truth is, I picked up my camera and thought about thinking about my dad. I thought about missing my dad, and hating him, and being scared of him. I thought about the person I was and the person I became and the long, ugly road in between. I thought about what I owed him. I thought about how much worse my life would be if he were still around, and how much I loved him, and how much I hated thinking this way.

I thought about the things that live in us, wear our skins and smile with our faces, speak with our voices and think with our thoughts.

But I don’t think I ever, in that long moment that stretched out between me and the camera and the small purple insectomammaloid, actually thought about my dad.

But I put down the camera. “I can’t,” I said.

The next day I visited dad’s grave for the time since. He wasn’t any less there than anywhere else, but the symbolism felt right.

I have had this story, its concept, its beginning and ending, in my head for the better part of a decade. In that time, I have written its beginning many times. This is the first time I have made it to the end.

Support for, concerns about #HeForShe

Edit: So as universalperson points out in the comments, Hugo Schwyzer is seriously awful an referring to him as a feminist ally is pretty inaccurate. On the other hand, I still stand by saying that he’s the strongest one Good Man Project had–he talked the talk while acting horribly in private, as opposed to actively attacking feminism and feminists. 

So, you may have heard about a speech Emma Watson gave at the UN recently, in which she went out of her way to emphasize the ways in which patriarchy hurts men and invite men into the feminist movement. Part of the purpose of the speech was to announce the launch of a new UN campaign, #HeForShe, encouraging men to pledge to speak out against instances of sexism and misogyny in their communities.

And this is, net, probably a good thing, which is why I have signed the pledge. Plus, you know, I was doing it already, and, as I said on Twitter, if Emma Watson and Lauren Faust are telling you to do something, it is probably worth at least checking out.

But at the same time, I’m a little cautious. I remember when the Good Man Project sounded like a great idea, a way to help repair the very real damage patriarchy and kyriarchy do to men and, in the process, help gain men as allies against the kyriarchy.

It didn’t work out that way. The year after its founding, the Good Man Project posted a series of anti-feminist articles by one of its founders, leading to the resignation of the strongest feminist ally among its regular contributors and resulting in its present state, a site where an article about the pain of being in “the friend zone” can share front page space with an article about using the pain of losing a friend to make one a better CEO, parenting and dating tips, but not a trace of politics, not a mention of, say, the behavior of men in creating #GamerGate or the moral obligation to not touch stolen nude pictures of celebrities or, I don’t know, the launch of #HeForShe? The entire site is predicated on the notion that it is possible to be a “good man” in isolation, that men’s issues can be separated from gender issues–that, in short, one can become a better man without thinking about women. And that’s when it’s not just being the watered-down diet version of the Men’s Rights movement.

Because that’s the thing: Yes, the patriarchy hurts men too. Hegemonic masculinity pressures men to avoid cultivating emotional intelligence, makes it difficult for them to form close friendships or seek help when in need. Male rape victims suffer the consequences of rape culture just as women do. Because the kyriarchy constructs masculinity as being about power, and particularly power over women, trans men are falsely seen as “starting as women” and barred from accessing that power or asserting masculinity; gay men are seen as unmasculine and threatening; men who do not particularly relish displays of power are seen as unmasculine and dispensable. Men are poisoned with false narratives and expectations about relationships, their place in the world, the source of their identity, and the nature of gender.

But all of this is collateral damage.

Supporting feminism because kyriarchy hurts men is like getting upset over a terrorist bombing because the resulting traffic jam made you late for work. Yes, that’s a negative effect, but focusing on it is self-centered and narcissistic.

Women are the targets of misogyny and sexism. They are the ones who face it day in and out, who see all of it, not just the bits that happen to men. They are the ones who can see the enemy, who know the enemy, who have no choice about being in this fight, because they are the ones being directly attacked.

We men are necessarily on the sidelines. So we can help. We can support. We can take action, discuss theory, even, if invited to do so, offer advice. But it must be women that lead, because a feminism that forefronts men’s concerns makes as much sense as a movement for racial equality that focuses on making whites feel better or a labor movement that emphasizes keeping managers happy; it’s inherently self-defeating.

If you want to see what a movement looks like that primarily focuses on the ways in which patriarchy hurts men, look no further than the Red Pill on Reddit, if you can stomach it. Men feel as if they’ve been robbed of something they’re entitled to, powerless, lost, purposeless, isolated because they’ve been taught by the patriarchy that their role is to exercise power, that certain emotions are “unmanly,” that women are their property and birthright. They feel powerless because they expect power, lost, purposeless, and isolated because they are emotionally stunted and unable to form healthy relationships, and robbed because they’ve been lied to about what they’re entitled to.

These are all problems that feminism can solve, because they’re all collateral damage of the war on women: all stem from a system of gender relations that defines “man” as “wielder of power over women.” But focusing on these problems puts the emphasis on the feelings of powerlessness and loss, pushing toward a “solution” of seeking to give men still more power over women. The result is to make the feeling being robbed worse, to stoke anger and resentment and hate. The result is MRAs and PUAs and, ultimately, rapes and mass shootings.

The focus, instead, needs to be on the underlying causes. Where feminism focuses on helping men, it needs to be about tough love–about helping men shed their entitlement, their expectations of power. Where feminism focuses on recruiting men, it should be about encouraging self-policing, about teaching men to teach men to be less entitled and to reduce unrealistic expectations of power. Then and only then can men work on healing the damage of patriarchy, after they’ve worked helping take it down.

And most importantly of all, men need to learn to help, not save. This is a theme I’ve hammered again and again in my analyses this past year, because it’s important. There’s a reason there’s a degree of controversy over whether men should even call themselves feminists, whether it might not be better to refer to themselves as feminist allies, and it’s because of the savior problem. Far too many men walk into feminist spaces because they want to Save the Women, imposing their own ideas–necessarily based on incomplete information, because no man experiences the entire reality of sexism as experienced by women–of what needs to be done, all in service of their own ego and self-image as a Good Person who will Rescue Those Poor People. It is a profoundly self-centered approach that infantilizes and dehumanizes the people one is seeking to save.

No, the proper role of men in a feminist movement is as helpers–our job is to say “What do you need?” and then either provide what’s asked for or get out of the way. Not because of any fundamental difference between men and women, but because that is the moral way and only really workable way to get involved in another person’s problems: to offer one’s resources and then allow the person in need to decide how to use them.

And helping isn’t easy. Trying to help is harder than trying to save. It means surrendering power and control, opening oneself up to rejection, and putting one’s own feelings and wants and ideas about what’s helpful second to the expressed needs of another person. Which is why, ultimately, I worry about #HeForShe in the long term. Getting involved in someone else’s equality movement to benefit oneself seems like very much the wrong reasons. A man who supports feminism to help himself, or to feel better, or to get praised, is pretty much guaranteed to be doing it wrong–and an entire international movement of people doing it wrong could do real damage.

So yes, I signed the #HeForShe pledge. And yes, I do encourage other men to do it as well. But I also encourage you to focus on the ForShe part. This isn’t HeForHe, isn’t about our egos and our needs. To return to my rather strained earlier metaphor, this isn’t about stopping traffic jams, it’s about stopping bombings. If the traffic jam is what it takes to get you involved, so be it–but the traffic jams cannot be priority one. They cannot be a priority at all; you’re just going to have to trust that the side effects will naturally fade as we tackle the core problem.

I don’t normally do this, but I feel this is an important conversation that needs to happen as part of #HeForShe, so: Please consider reblogging, sharing, and linking to this post.

Sailor Moon Episode 6 Liveblog Chatlog

[15:01] Last time on Sailor Moon: we got a new toy. Usagi Get Equipped with: Moon Wand
01[15:01] lol
01[15:02] Credits over, ad.
[15:02] Indeed
[15:02] I’m getting the short crunchyroll devices ad
[15:02] 2×12 seconds, and it’s done
[15:02] Yours?
01[15:02] Not me.
01[15:03] back
[15:03] I guess Crunchyroll divides the US into regions for ad sales
01[15:03] Oh no, please don’t be a Tuxedo Fedora focus ep.
01[15:03] WTF “Who are you?”
01[15:03] Didn’t he show up at her HOUSE last episode?
[15:04] He doesn’t know who the figure in that dream we just saw is
01[15:04] “Who are you, girl I’m stocking and making out with when she’s unconscious?”
01[15:04] Oh.
01[15:05] Okay, he totally posed for that picture.
01[15:05] That’s not a news photo, that’s his headshot he uses to apply for roles in local TV productions.
01[15:06] Are they watching TV on a crystal ball?
01[15:06] Like, they’re using the ball to remote-view a TV that’s showing the news?
01[15:06] That’s AMAZING.
01[15:08] That’s pretty legit power for a magical girl show.
[15:08] I like how the planet whose destruction gets imagined is Jupiter. That’s what you get for asking questions!
01[15:08] LOL, point.
01[15:08] I’m always amused by these super-advanced alien civilizations that have nothing between “slightly worse than most handguns” and “planet-killer.”
01[15:09] Silly Scouts, don’t you know ALL cats are from the moon?
[15:09] Ad soon
01[15:09] Likewise.
01[15:09] Ad.
[15:10] Same as before?
01[15:10] No, now it’s for a new Batman show.
01[15:11] back
[15:11] I gotta say, seeing that same crunchy ad twice every break gets old
01[15:11] Yeah, I hate that.
01[15:11] How does everyone suddenly know what the Legendary Silver Crystal is?
01[15:11] …oh, mind control, that’s how.
[15:11] Tuxedo Mask told them
01[15:12] Oh, so that’s where that room is.
[15:13] I tell you what, they didn’t have this swanky secret base in the old cartoon
[15:13] Hm, “taskete” translated as “save” is a poor choice here
01[15:14] Yeah, “help” would have been a lot less obnoxious.
[15:14] It’s often used in that sense but in this case it’s clearly used for “help” which is being very generous
01[15:15] Aw, Mars and Jupiter’s transformation have been de-badassified.
01[15:15] Wait, why is Usagi losing energy?
[15:16] I dunno any more than you tbh
01[15:17] Damn skippy you don’t have special abilities, you non-teleporting loser.
[15:18] I dunno what Usagi is talking about she is not at all in the same no-powers boat as Mamoru
01[15:18] Yeah, she has the Tiara of Death and the awful crying thingy.
01[15:19] I was not expecting a confrontation with Queen Beryl this early!
01[15:21] Is this the first time seeing her full sequence since ep 1?
[15:21] I think they’ve made time for it at least once since then
[15:21] Not sure
01[15:23] That’s an interesting effect for a move with “Healing” in the name.
01[15:23] Okay, this latter part is more like it.
01[15:24] Oh hey, she figured it out a lot earlier than I expected.
01[15:24] So that’s good!
01[15:25] Ad but I think we no longer care.
01[15:25] So, thoughts?
[15:25] Zoicite identified himself as Beryl’s European commander
01[15:25] Yeah, that was kind of interesting.
[15:25] That’s something I heard about being a thing in the Manga, it didn’t come up in the old show
01[15:26] Ah.
01[15:26] I feel like last week’s episode was a LOT better.
01[15:26] But this was all right.
[15:26] So it wasn’t fully on screen, but Mamoru totally kissed Usagi after she fainted.
01[15:26] Are you serious?
01[15:26] I missed that.
01[15:27] So now it’s officially a thing, he’s a necrophiliac.
01[15:27] (IIRC, despite the name, it includes fetishizing unconscious people.)
[15:27] 21:15
[15:27] As he moves in for the kiss, his watch falls off
01[15:27] Already closed the window, I’ll take your word for it.
01[15:28] Dude is SERIOUSLY GROSS
01[15:28] Okay.
01[15:28] Well, I’m going to watch the last episode of Saikano.
[15:28] Other than presuming consent because Memories of their Past Lives & Destiny etc., he’s mostly about telling Usagi that She’s Awesome and She  Can Do It
01[15:29] Yeah, but the presumed consent thing is kind of spectacularly awful.
[15:29] It’s worth remembering that Usagi is more or less admitted to be the author’s self insert, and Mamoru is her personal fantasy boyfriend
01[15:30] That doesn’t make it less creepy IMO?
[15:30] It says something unfortunate about the way romantic tropes in fiction shape everyone’s expectations
01[15:30] Yeah, it really does.
01[15:31] Tuxedo Fedora is like living concentrate of Everything Fucked Up About Fairy Tale Romance.

Some facts about my upcoming Apocalypse panel

Finished my Apocalypse panel last night, and I am inordinately pleased with it. So either I’ll flub it horribly or no one will show up.

But until the inevitable catastrophe (heh) kicks in, here’s some facts about it:

  • Running length: ~48 minutes on my test run, which is ideal for a 1-hour slot.
  • Number of video clips: 2 (low for me, but I have a LOT of talking to do)
  • Number of slides: 16, included title slide and bibliography
  • Genres of pre-anime works discussed: heroic epic, philosophical dialogue, sacred legend, sacred prophecy, alien invasion, bildungsroman
  • Genres of anime discussed: cyberpunk, super robot psychodrama, surrealist fairy tale, teen romance, magical girl
  • Uses of the word qlippothic: 0, alas
  • Bibliography entries that, at first glance, make no sense: 1

Also I just bought a refurbished video camera, assuming it arrives in time and works I will be able to record my panels.

Still on a Podcast: Lucifer vol. 5 with Uncle Yo

Yes, I am once again a guest on Uncle Yo’s “We Are the Geek” to discuss Mike Carey’s Lucifer. Specifically volume 5, which I enjoyed as we once again get to see the politics of Hell.

Also, yes, I’m aware I haven’t updated Saturday’s liveblog post, it’s for much the same reason Sunday’s post was so late. I’ll take care of it tonight.

What am I gonna do? I’ll never win the competition now! (Rainbow Falls)

Sorry this is so late, everyone. Last I remember I was sitting at my computer working on this at about 9:30 PM last night, then suddenly I’m in bed and it’s late morning. It is entirely possible I have been overworking and undersleeping this week.

I have no idea who you’re talking about.

It’s January 18, 2014. The top song is “Timber” by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha, a heavily produced and highly repetitive song about sex and parties so generic it approaches being the Platonic ideal of mass-produced songs.designed to be played very loudly in crowded rooms where no one’s listening, and the top movie is Ride Along. In the news, Egyptians vote on a new constitution; the execution of Denis McGuire takes 25 minutes, prompting renewed debate about the death penalty in the U.S.; the Golden Globes are awarded and Oscar nominees announced.

In ponies, Corey Powell pens “Rainbow Falls,” which has the interesting distinction of being, to date, the only episode to be in two separate arcs, involving as it does both the Equestria Games and the quest for the keys. These are two very different kinds of arcs. The Equestria Games arc strongly resembles the first season’s “accidental” Grand Galloping Gala arc, where a single episode about preparing for the event spawned further references and eventually the event itself. Similarly, there was no reason to believe Season Three’s “Games Ponies Play” was part of an arc or that the Equestria Games would be mentioned again until Season Four’s “Flight to the Finish,” and there is no particular defined structure to the arc, other than the presumption that, like the Gala, the last episode of the arc will be the Games themselves. There is no way to tell, however, whether any given episode that mentions the Games is the second-to-last or twelfth-to-last in the arc.

By contrast, the quest for the keys has a clear structure. We knew from the season premiere that this would be an arc, since it ends with a focus on the question of what might be in the crystal and how it might be opened. There are six keys for the crystal container, six Elements of Harmony, and the Mane Six; Rarity has already received a souvenir for teaching another pony the essence of Generosity, which souvenir received end-of-episode focus and mysterious music as it shimmered with rainbow light; rainbows have been strongly affiliated with the Elements of Harmony. Already after “Rarity Takes Manehattan” fans were speculating that each of the Mane Six would have a focus episode in which they faced a crisis of their Element and earned some sort of souvenir, thus making the needed keys.

The challenge for the writers, then, is how to follow such a clear structure without falling into the formulaic, and here in the second “key” episode Powell succeeds admirably. The approach of merging the two storylines for one episode is, no pun intended, the key to this success. In “Rarity Takes Manehattan” the test of generosity was the episode’s only plot, and therefore its resolution the end of the episode. Here in “Rainbow Falls” we have two plots, the A plot in which Rainbow Dash struggles between her loyalty to the Ponyville team and her desire to be on the likely winning team from Cloudsdale, and the B plot in which the Ponyville team competes for a chance to be in the Equestria Games. Thus, even though the A plot follows the same structure as “Rarity Takes Manehatten” of “pony tempted away from their element, realizes this is wrong, reaffirms loyalty to their element and in the process teaches someone else its value,” the episode as a whole is able to add on an extended denoument in which the Ponyville team, including Rainbow Dash, competes to qualify for the Games and barely squeaks in. It’s a small thing, but enough to help prevent this from feeling like “Rarity Takes Manehattan 2: Rainbow’s Revenge.”

Oddly, this is also one of the few episodes so far this season not to feature some sort of external intrusion into Equestria or the show. Instead we have something of the opposite, a “greatest hits” tour of Rainbow Dash’s past focus adventures, including the temptation to abandon her friends to join an elite team (“Friendship Is Magic, Part 2”), a lack of confidence in advance of a big competition (“Sonic Rainboom”), pushing someone to praise her after she rescued them (“The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well”), faking an injury (“Read It and Weep”), and a shot where Rainbow Dash announces she’s made a choice, cut to someone assuming they’ve been chosen, then Rainbow announces she went with someone else (“May the Best Pet Win”). And Spitfire directly references being impressed by Rainbow’s performance at the Academy (“Wonderbolts Academy”).

However, this inward turn makes a degree of sense. The symbols on the Tree of Harmony in “Princess Twilight Sparkle” associated the Element of Loyalty and Rainbow Dash with the sephirah of keter, the Crown, the highest on the tree. Keter is the highest level of spiritual attainment, perhaps fitting for the high-flying Rainbow Dash, and the spark of inspiration from which all the other sephiroth descend. Rainbow Dash fits well in that position, both diegetically, as she created the sonic rainboom that gave all of the Mane Six their cutie marks, and extradiegetically, as what appears to be a possible early precursor to Rainbow Dash appears in Lauren Faust’s juvenilia. In turn, as the highest of the sephiroth kether is the farthest from malkhut, the Kingdom, which is where the incursion began in “Princess Twilight Sparkle.” Rainbow Dash, after all, almost never touches the ground.

The lack of outside incursion, however, does not mean we are therefore safe from the qlippoth. They are, instead, here before us. The qlippah associated with kether in the Hermetic tradition is Tauriel, the clash of opposing forces. All things are one in kether; just because it is the farthest from malkhut does not mean it and malkhut are opposed; failure to recognize this unity and balance leads to taking sides, eschewing completeness out of a desire for victory.

Rainbow Dash is, as befits the Element of Loyalty, somewhat prone to taking sides. So committed is she to all things “air,” for example, that she almost never touches the ground. Likewise, Rainbow Dash fixates on the competition instead of the contest, on winning rather than working together with her friends, and as such looses sight of her Element. She insists on seeing the qualifying trials as a competition for a limited resource, qualifying slots in the Equestria Games, and misses the larger view, in which it is a part of an event meant to entertain and showcase athleticism, in which the competitors are not enemies but rather allies encouraging one another to attain new heights. Once she remembers that it’s not about beating other competitors, but being with her team and helping them be as good as they can be, she also realizes where she belongs. She walks to the playing field to announce her decision–walks, not flies, because know she understands that even the ground is not her enemy.

Another lesson both learned and taught. Another key gained. Already we begin to gain an image of what might be in that box, based on what is needed to open it: something that teaches, something that unifies. We’re a third of the way there.

Next week: But first, shenanigans.